Back-country car crash kills corrections officer, service dog

WARNER SPRINGS (CNS) – An on-duty state corrections officer and a
service dog were killed in a solo car crash Monday on State Route 79, east of
Lake Henshaw.

Gilbert Cortez, 46, was driving at the front of a small caravan of
southbound prison vehicles when he lost control of the marked Ford Crown
Victoria about a half-mile south of San Felipe Road in the Warner Springs area
shortly before 7:30 a.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.

The sedan skidded out, overturned and rolled over side to side, coming
to rest on its wheels, the CHP reported.

Medics took Cortez to a nearby fire station, where he died before he
could be put into an emergency-services helicopter for a flight to a trauma

The dog, a Belgian Malinois named Mattie, succumbed to her injuries at
the scene of the crash.

There were no other occupants of the sedan, the CHP reported. The cause
of the accident was under investigation.

The wreck occurred as corrections personnel in five vehicles were en
route to inspect La Cima Fire Camp, an inmate-staffed back-country firefighting
outpost in the Julian area, said Jeffrey Callison, spokesman for the California
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Authorities closed the two-lane rural road in the area until mid-
afternoon to allow for investigations and cleanup.

Cortez, a 23-year veteran of the state corrections agency, worked at
California Rehabilitation Center in Riverside County and was part of its
Southern Regional K-9 Unit. He is survived by his wife and two children.

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